My research interests circle around the following areas of scholarship: archival outreach and advocacy, concepts of community, collective memory and identity, social determinants of health & wellbeing, activism and social movement, and queer social histories.
I also follow scholarship in the areas of intellectual property, the future of the book, and digital cultures and technologies.
My disseration research looks at the trajectories and strategic actions of queer archives from an activist orientation. The material culture preserved within queer archives is a vital resource for creating transformative politics; however, these organizations are an understudied aspect of grassroots social movements. Despite their importance to social movement activities, such as providing evidence of social exclusion or discrimination, encouraging scholarship that promotes movement ideology, and serving as a meeting place for movement participants, queer archives have not been studied within the context of social movement theory. Further, archival literature does not provide an adequate vocabulary for investigating queer archives because it fails to acknowledge that these organizations are constituted not only to confront archival silences, but also to actively participate in collective action for social change. We have little information about the how these initiatives emerge, grow, and formalize, and what strategic actions they take to sustain themselves as movements progress.
This project is designed to expand on current research in these two different fields by filling in gaps at their intersection. To better understand the experiences of queer archives, this multiple case study will look at how five of these organizations have responded to strategic dilemmas and changes to the socio-political environments that influence the social movements from which they emerge.
Findings will shed light on the work of queer archives from an activist orientation. This should not only help professional archivists to better understand these organizations and anticipate any opportunities and challenges they may encounter when partnering with queer archives or acquiring their collections, but also call attention to some of the limitations of traditional heritage or archival studies approaches to understanding these kinds of community-based collections.
I approach my work from a social justice perspective and recognize that our personal and cultural identities are formed within the same social contexts that priviledge some voices while silencing others.
Research Primers [click on title to access]
- Rebecka Sheffield and Kate Zieman. (Forthcoming, 2014). "Privacy, Context & Pride: The Management of Digital Photographs in a Queer Archives." In Rachel Wexelbaum, ed. Queers Online: LGBT Digital Practices in Libraries, Archives, and Museums. Los Angeles, CA: Litwin.
- Rebecka Sheffield, Sean Kidd & Kwame McKenzie. (2011). "Trans Programming at the 519 Church Street Community Centre: A Case Study in Social Entrepreneurship." Forthcoming. [DRAFT]
- Wendy M. Duff, Joan M. Cherry & Rebecka Sheffield. (2010). "‘Creating a Better Understanding of Who We Are’: A Survey of Graduates of a Museum Studies Program." Museum Management & Curatorship 24(5).
- Wendy M. Duff, Elizabeth Yakel, Helen R. Tibbo, Joan M. Cherry, Aprille McKay, Magia G. Krause & Rebecka Sheffield. (2010). "The Development, Testing, and Evaluation of the Archival Metrics Project." American Archivist 73(2).
- Wendy Duff, Jennifer Carter, Costis Dallas, Lynne Howarth, Seamus Ross, Rebecka Sheffield & Cassandra Tilson, “The Changing Museum Environment in North America and the Impact of Technology on Museum Work." In Proceedings: Cultural Heritage On Line. Empowering Users: An Active Role for User Communities. Rinascimento Digitale, Florence (2009), 103-107. [PDF]
- Rebecka Sheffield & Marcel Barriault, eds. (2009). Special Section on Queer Archives. Archivaria 68. [PDF]
- Rebecka Sheffield. (2009). "Smelly Knowledge": An Information Audit of the Sunnydale High Library in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Faculty of Information Quarterly 2(1). [PDF]
- Rebecka Sheffield. (2008). “We’d Lose Our Shirt!”: How Canada’s Cultural Policy Has Shaped the Canadian Literary Canon. Faculty of Information Quarterly 1(3). [PDF]
- Rebecka Sheffield & Kate Zieman, eds. (2005). We're Here, We're Queer, We're Used to It: A Colleciton of Writing by Young Queer Women. Toronto: homosaywhat? [webiste]
- "Privacy, Context & Pride: The Management of Digital Photographs in a Queer Archives". Archives Association of Ontario (AAO) annual conference, Ottawa, ON. May 29-31, 2013. accepted
- "Affecting Resonance: Queering Archival Outreach and Community Engagement". Panel discussant. Association of Canadian Archivists annual meeting. June 14-16, 2013. accepted
- "Sustaining Passion and Encouraging Diversity: Community Engagement at the Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives". LGBT Archives-Libraries-Museums-Special Collections (ALMS) grassroots conference, West Hollywood, CA. May 13, 2011
- "Investigating the Information Seeking Behaviour of LGBT Prospective Parents During the Adoption Process". Social Aetiology of Mental Illness Training Program inaugural conference, CAMH, Toronto, ON. November 19, 2010
- "To Begin in the Archives: Positioning Queer Archives as Tactics of Pleasure". Doing Queer Studies Now conference, University of Michigan Ann Arbor. October 21-23, 2010
- “Rainbow Hollinger Boxes: Outreach and Advocacy at the Canadian Gay & Lesbian Archives”. American Library Associaition annual conference, Washington, DC. June 27, 2010
- "There's a Gay Archives?": Outreach and Advocacy at the Canadian Gay & Lesbian Archives". IA3C Graduate Conference at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Information, Toronto, ON. March 29, 2010
- " 'We’d Lose Our Shirt!': How Canada’s Cultural Policy Has Shaped the Canadian Literary Canon". Housing Memories Graduate Conference at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Information, Toronto, ON. March 2009
- "Confidential Pride: Balancing Access and Privacy in Queer Archives". Association of Canadian Archivists annual conference, Fredericton, NB. June 2008.